Bill Belichick often doesn’t say much in the media. Last October he was asked about Richard Seymour, a player he traded in 2009.
Belichick said 1,066 gushing words about Seymour. It started with a question about what made Seymour a special player.
“Everything,” Belichick said.
Seymour came to New England with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. The Patriots won a Super Bowl that season, the start of their dynasty. Seymour played an important role in the early phase of this dynasty en route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Belichick had been in the NFL for a long time when the Patriots got Seymour, and he had coached many great players. He said Seymour was “really different from any other player I had coached up to that point”.
“I’ve never really had anyone like that,” Belichick said. “He was very smart. He could do a lot of different things; game plans, passing peak plays, playing certain plays a certain way. It was all really quite easy for him because the game was easy for him. in terms of intelligence and anticipation and communication along the line.”
It takes a special player to get that kind of praise from the normally stoic Belichick. Seymour was special.
Richard Seymour helped found a dynasty
Other players from the Patriots dynasty have been in more of the spotlight, but Seymour has helped set the tone.
“We had a bond with our teammates and they were like brothers, and we felt responsible for each other,” Seymour told MassLive.com. “And, I think when you have a culture like that and that breeds success, and that’s winning races, that’s really what it’s all about.
More than anything intangible, Seymour was a force on the pitch. His versatility along the defensive line was key for the Patriots. His height and athleticism were unique. He was 6-foot-6 and 317 pounds, but was nimble enough to recover a 68-yard fumble for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in 2003.
When Belichick spoke about Seymour, he was referring to the defensive lineman making a key block on Troy Brown’s 85-yard punt return in a 2001 win over the Cleveland Browns. You won’t see many future Hall of Fame defensive linemen throwing key blocks on the punt return team.
“He was very, very athletic,” Belichick said.
Seymour played in five straight Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro three times with the Patriots. And then his time in New England was suddenly over.
And then Seymour was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick before the 2009 season, one of many times the Patriots went from a key veteran without much warning. Seymour has also done well with the Raiders.
Seymour had some good years with the Raiders
Seymour played four seasons with the Raiders and made two Pro Bowls before retiring. He finished his career with seven Pro Bowls and 57.5 sacks.
Seymour might have resented him for being traded when he still had some good years left, but he said he never had a problem with Belichick.
“It’s just part of how the NFL works,” Seymour told USA Today in 2020. “So it may have seemed like a tension or something, but in my mind, it’s not not a grudge.”
Because Seymour’s impact came from his consistent dominance and not from the number of stunning sacks, it took him a few hits to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. While waiting for the call in 2019, he told Shalise Manza Young of Yahoo Sports that he was proud of his footballing heritage.
“I think one thing I always said was that I wanted to be respected by the players I played against,” Seymour said. “When you’re kind of hanging out or at events, I have a lot of offensive linemen coming up to me and telling me I played the game the right way, I was the one of their toughest competitors or i was the best they played against.
“When they say that, I feel like I’m already in the Hall of Fame because of that.”
Now he has a gold jacket to make it official.